A Lesson Learned from NANOWRIMO

by RS on November 14, 2010

I thought it would be useful to share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far during this ongoing thirty day challenge, and the first one is all about the outline.

I’ve written countless of posts of why I don’t outline, what software will help me with outlining, why I still don’t outline, why I should outline, but can’t bring myself to sit my butt down and just do a preliminary outline, ad nauseaum. I finally had accepted that I just don’t outline that’s not how I’m wired. Once I get an idea, I write it in one long session, and see where it all goes, and that’s that.

Yet, with The Wilde Solution, I’m seeing the merits of outlining. When I started the project, I pretty much had an idea of how it would start and end. The middle was a bit of a toss-up, as middles usually are because that’s where all the conflict should happen, and I had a vague notion of what that conflict would be. But the story has gotten away from me, and it’s time I rein it in.

How? Well, I am starting some index cards, and jotting scene notes that may or not make it into the story, and I’m back to my character bios and fleshing them out more. In Scrivener, it’s fairly simple to do this in an organized manner. Write one or sentence summary on the index card then in the notes section flesh it out more. So when I actually have my chapter, I have a nice foundation (or idea) of where I want this to go.

The mistake I’ve always made with the concept of outlining is that it should take no more than a couple of days to do it. Now I realize that outlining (like the endless research) is like writing a novel–you don’t rush it. For some people it can take a week, for others a month.

What does that mean for The Wilde Solution? It means that at the end of the month, I’ll take those 50K words, dissect them word-by-word, salvage what I can, but most likely trash 3/4 of the work. Then I’ll do what I should have done in October–write a detailed outline, and start all over again.

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